October 15, 2020 submitted by Nina Wellford, Member, Old Ship Board of Trustees (courtesy photo)
At a Special Parish Meeting on October 13, 2020, members of Old Ship Church gathered on ZOOM to vote on two articles: to allow the Board of Trustees to negotiate with Atlantic Development for the sale of land and the Parish House at 107 Main Street, and to allow the Board to negotiate with Hingham’s Affordable Housing Trust for the sale of a portion of the land at 107 Main Street for the expansion of Lincoln School Apartments. After close to 2 hours of detailed discussion, the first article passed with a vote of 98 to 9. The second passed with a vote of 103 to 2. Old Ship Church includes about 160 active members.
The Old Ship Board of Trustees takes the vote as a clear mandate to move forward to the next step: negotiating an actual contract with each entity. The final vote on the contracts will require a 2/3 majority.
The discussions and debates held within the Old Ship community over the last years have made many things clear. These are the FACTS:
Deferred maintenance and major repair work on the existing 1865 Parish House will cost approx. $1.4 million. This was determined by estimates, not bids, received from reputable local contractors, for all major areas needing attention. A very generous major gift has been offered by a parishioner that would cover some of the work related to “greening” the building. It would likely be gratefully accepted if we decided to pursue renovation. We can potentially sell part of the land to the Lincoln School apartments for affordable housing, which fits with our mission as a church. The remaining very large sum of money would have to be raised from the Old Ship community. We have not received offers of help, financial or otherwise, from neighbors, nor have we yet pursued grant monies, which generally are not awarded to churches in buildings not considered of historic importance. Old Ship Church membership cannot afford to maintain the Parish House.
We have now received an offer for purchase of 107 Main Street. The potential developer is a Hingham resident with an excellent reputation for civic-mindedness and quality work, contrary to what you might have read elsewhere. He would listen to the neighbors, and his plans would have to pass all Town Boards, including the Historic Districts Commission, plus Town Meeting in April, 2021. The Parish House would NOT be razed. Rather, it would be preserved. The main structure would be restored to its original residential use, but as condominiums. The developer hopes to live there. The streetscape, which IS considered historic, will be preserved as well.
Old Ship would be thrilled to be able to contribute to providing affordable housing in Hingham. The concept of selling a portion of the land at 107 Main Street to the Affordable Housing Trust for expansion of the Lincoln School Apartments is an absolute win for all concerned. Fortunately, Atlantic Development’s proposal enables us to continue with this plan.
Old Ship Church would build a new Parish House on the land that it owns next to the historic Meeting House. It would fit with the streetscape of Hingham Square and complies with accepted use of the lot. It would be purpose-built for the needs of the Parish, with additional usage by other non-profit groups and the public. It would be fully accessible and energy efficient, which the current house is not. It would be able to be maintained by the parishioners of Old Ship Church.
We are happy to explain in detail how we got to this point, to anyone interested. Our parishioners have been debating openly for almost five years now, and doing the work necessary to make informed decisions. Until now, we have not had a good, viable proposal to work with, which is why we took the house off the market last Fall.
Looking ahead, the vast majority of our members are excited about the opportunity to finally focus on a move that will define the next decades of life in our congregation. We hope to be able to come to an agreement with Atlantic Development. Until then, we continue to take one step at a time.